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  • Joe Cangelosi

Cultivating a Culture

Culture is the central theme that comes up for all our engagements. Our clients want us to understand their culture so, that when we roll out something new, we make sure everyone feels the love. Sometimes we get asked how to tweak or improve their company culture.

Occasionally we get asked what it even means to have a business culture. And that is the scariest question of them all!

Organizational culture doesn’t just happen. Everything that leaders do – and as importantly, do not do – affects how other people in the organization behave, both in their work and towards one another. If leaders are open to new ideas and respectful of the people around them, that tends to trickle down the ladder. If leaders scream at anyone subordinate to them and insist on texting you all weekend, that behavior probably manifests down the line. As my dad always says, turds roll downhill!

The unfortunate truth of the matter is this: if you do not actively promote a culture in your organization, what you’re doing is creating a culture where everyone is free to follow their worst impulses. Organizations with no cultural leadership inevitably have the sharpest elbows and the deepest-entrenched fiefdoms.


An agency with two camps

We were recently approached by an agency with two camps: the Field and the Office.


The Field kids thought they were better than the Office kids because they were traveling the world visiting clients and going to job sites. They made all the money so they were important, and they treated the Office kids like servants.

Anything the Office kids needed didn’t matter so the Office had twice as much work to do, trying to keep track of things while being ignored, until the Field kids got around to getting their time and expense reports in.


The Office kids resented the Field kids and they weren’t shy with their hostility. They called the Field kids Show Ponies.

Even though they all worked for the same company serving the same clients and ultimately had the same boss, they treated each other terribly. We saw some of the email traffic and it hurt to read it. Eventually the CEO came to us and said “I don’t how it came to this!” So I asked her, how do you enforce your policies so the Field kids are giving the Office kids what they need? And how do you make sure the policies you have reasonably accommodate intense travel and production schedules?

Crickets.

I’ll tell you the same thing we told her: it’s up to you to fix your culture and the time to do it last week!

Creating a healthy organizational culture

We could go on about it all day, but there are three critical components to creating a healthy organizational culture:

1. LEADERS MATTERS

Humans are social creatures and we take cues from each other. Like it or not, somebody stands at the front of the room and that person’s behavior has an outsized effect on the behavior of everyone else. As we say in Sicilian u pisci feti ra testa, the fish rots from the head!

2. EVERYONE COUNTS

The CEO may have more responsibility and ultimately be more important to the company than the new kid in the mail room, but make no mistake: the new kid in the mail room counts, too. Consider how things affect him when developing your policies and procedures. If you're the CEO, it is your responsibility to hold yourself accountable to the trickle down effect of the culture you want your people to live.

3. BE TRANSPARENT

Not everyone can get everything they want all the time but when everyone understands why it cushions the blow. Hiding behind executive privilege or departmental fiefdoms is a great way to breed resentment no matter how altruistic your motives might be.

An experienced advisor can help you through the process of cultural development and organizational change. At Tee Lex we’re obsessed with practical solutions focused on individuals and I can tell you there is no better strategic advantage to retaining talent than a strong positive culture.
 

If you’re struggling with your workplace culture and are looking for some help, drop me a line at joe@teelexinc.com